DAY 3 - MELVINS
Usually we do phone interviews. Because with a band from Brooklyn, what choice do you have? Today, however, offered me a unique opportunity to sit down with a mind-bending group (for whatever reason I feel as if I shouldn't share the name, but there are clues throughout).
It's not a band's job to do sit-downs while touring, especially on a rare day off. When they do, they save these kinds of exercises for the big-timers like Rolling Stone and the New York Times. It's a bitch because, aside from the color a story gets by parking it in a real-life, hopefully-poignant setting, I personally feel better able to make honest connections with the artists, which in turn opens them to sharing more.
Yes, it relates to the show. Keep reading installment two, and get prepared for the third and final installment, which is massive and the most interesting (it also comes with video)
So on Sunday morning I woke up early (at 12:30). I was supposed to receive a call from the band in questions, but there was no scheduled time. Knowing they weren't exactly of the tramp mold, unlikely to have been blowing coke the night before, I figured it might be early—that is, if they even called at all (leaving it in their hands immediately gave me pause). A few hours later it finally came. The voice on the other end tried to wiggle out of meeting, pushing instead for the usual phoner. This is no good I said—I want to do something special. For this album, Portland deserves it.
So we decided to meet at a show where the group had some friends performing, which also happened to be close to a studio they recorded at. Well, I thought to myself, dammit, I guess I'll just get to the Melvins a little late.
Not so. The schedule kept changing, but I resolved to ride my cranky bike down to the Roseland, if for only a minute, and keep the ever-thinning thread of my Four Shows concept from unraveling completely. As usual I could hear the thudding through the ballroom walls, approaching the entrance on 5th street.
Inside, strangely enough, the Melvins seem no louder than TV On The Radio the night before (then again, my tinnitus ridden ears are beyond gone—but as they say, "if you haven't lost your hearing by the time you die you've wasted it").
I've always enjoyed the Melvins, and seen them a couple times of the years, but for some reason I've never the need to plug the holes in my record collection with their albums. This is a music and a band I need to feel the rumble from—the low-end has got to make my stomach gargle.
And here, as in all times past, my guts rumbled. Performing their 1993 album Houdini in its entirety I see clearly why it's referred to as the Mevlin's most accessible. In the few songs I caught there were hooks and even vocal harmonies. More propelled stomp, less dirge. (I can only imagine the clarity of the counter-point as the band had earlier performed their Mangled Demos, dating back to the band's sludgier emergence ten years prior.)
Making the mistake of checking the clock, I knew it was again time to keep moving. And like the industrial fans trained on King Buzzo's majestic fro, I had to once again blow back across the river.
For 11 O'clock on a Sunday, downtown Portland was a pulsing hive—and not just for the many concerts littered throughout town by the remnants of Sasquatch, the Bridge and Tunnel Club were out in full force, date-raping their way through third street at all those horrible bars which surround—and often spill into—the Tube. There were big lines outside both Dante's Burlesque show and Voodoo Doughnuts. A bunch of sluts with squirt guns were running around the sidewalks of Dirty (without a doubt the worst Chad-bar in Portland). Jesus, get me out of here.
The band in question and I were supposed to meet for White Rainbow's set at Holocene. No sign of them yet, as they had bounced off to see Grizzly Bear at the Aladdin. "Soon," the text messages would say. Forkner was now packing up his gear.
My interview wasn't going to happen, I figured. But on the off chance it might, I waited. The Holocene headliners, Windy & Carl, were a group I'd never heard of. A friend said, "it's really atmospheric. It feels like the seasons. I like to listen to it in winter time, but you know, sort of in the background." (They're from Dearborn Michigan and apparently have been around 15 years.)
Through loads of delay and other effects the guitar and bass (sometimes guitar and guitar, guitar and bells, guitar and keyboard) duo shifted ever so delicately through washes and drones. "Their patience is amazing," I whispered to a nearby Aaron Champman, a member of Nurses. "I know," he said. "I could never do that."
And so the couple (they certainly seemed like couple, anyway) continued, pensively sifting through long suites. Occasionally she would sing. At first it felt a little boring, but over time the sounds became nourishing and full, a kind of southing aural balm.
Another text came from my potential interview subjects, "We're getting held up." I knew it, but at this point I hardly cared.
Sprawled out over the floor even before the set began the audience at Holocene were obviously familiar with Windy & Carl. Some were laying down and even, at times, appeared to be sleeping (or daydreaming in some eyes-closed, meditational trance). One man, however, stood throughout the entire performance, shifting through an age-old, snail-paced, incremental tai-chi type dance.
Looking out over the crowd, and and at the underwater footage projected over the duo, I couldn't help wondering how much better this would be in the open air, if we were sprawled out in the grass staring at the stars. But to their credit, Windy & Carl's breezy, lush, pensive wash made that feeling of nature and the night sky palpable—even with a roof over our heads.
SCHEDULE CHANGE: Tune in Friday (or maybe the weekend, or maybe even Monday) for Day 4, which I will finally get to Labor Day, Animal Collective, and the surprise show, complete with video footage.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!